The Shakespearian absence of love in the Arab psyche

The Shakespearian absence of love in the Arab psyche
Comment: The purging of love has tortured and corrupted Arabs' collective wellbeing. Like Shakespeare's tragic heroes, they may perish unless love resurrects within them, says Moe Chreif.
5 min read
09 Jun, 2015
Arabs may perish if love is not resurrected within them [AFP]
"It is not nor it cannot come to good."
Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

The collective psyche of Arab societies has been corrupted and tortured by an absence of love and hope, in their lives, their day to day affairs, their institutions and constitutions, on their streets and in their homes.

Arab people, rulers, and revolutionaries, have put their faith in death, rather than in love, to deliver them from evil.

Shakespeare's tragic heroes destine themselves to perish as soon as they decide to expel love from within them.

Hamlet drives Ophelia away, before he sets himself to follow the guidance of his father's spirit for revenge. Ophelia - love personified - withers away into madness and death. Hamlet is now ready for tragedy.
The Pied Pipers of the Arab world could not have enticed people with death, have love, hope, and life not been already forsaken by them.

There are no names to conjure with. Arab role models are scarce and, when found, it becomes apparent that they are as sick as the society that has bred them.

If good role models are to emerge, they are shunned, prosecuted, or forced to flee, emigrate. They are forced to do so even by those who could have potentially become their disciples. Why? There is no room for love in a place that has come to believe in the power of death.

Faith in death

Who's left? The sabre-wielders, who, in the name of religion, secularism, honour, revenge, ambition, or revenge, have, like the Pied Piper, lured people willingly into their own death and destruction.

But the Pied Pipers of the Arab world could not have enticed people with death, had love, hope and life not been already forsaken by them.

The best one could hope for is a stalemate, as everything is regressing rapidly. Arab societies are governed by fear, hopelessness and a thirst for revenge.

Looting, raping, pillaging, murdering, and destroying civilisations ancient and new have become the prize that would lure those people who have come to believe in death as redemption.

In Iraq and Syria, people are encouraged to take what they can, whenever they can, because of the mentality that nothing is permanent; you have to hold on to things or take them from someone else, because maybe tomorrow they will no longer be there.

The Arabs have not learnt from Shakespeare's tragic heroes, who all fell from grace by putting ideology or ambition before or above love.

In Shakespeare's tragedy, Julius Caesar, the noble Brutus puts politics before love. He loves Caesar but he chooses to murder him for what he thinks is the good of Rome. This act leads the Romans to a bloody civil war.

This could not have come to be if the well-meaning Brutus wasn't able to cast out the love or light from his self in order to conjure darkness.

This darkness comes back to haunt him in the shape of Caesar's ghost. Brutus, defeated, runs himself on his own sword, killing himself.

The ghosts

Well-meaning revolutionaries, whether in Egypt, Syria, or Libya, will be haunted by the ghosts of so many children, elderly people, women, and men who have been offered as sacrificial lambs.

The Lebanese people are still suffereing from a civil war that ended 25 years ago. Generations and generations here are no longer able to conceive of normality.

Fear, greed, death, and destruction are the building stones of nations built on sectarian principles, tribal allegiances, religious fanaticism, totalitarianism and corrupt institutions. How long could a house remain standing when its entire structure is resting on such foundations?
It is reasonable to think that the Islamic State may one day become a reality, but will it last a decade?

The Islamic State project is one example.

It is reasonable to think that "The Caliphate" may one day become a reality, but will it last a decade? It won't be destroyed by moderate or Western forces. It will implode, as its foundations are based on death.

Those who created it will demolish it after they discover that their lives lack in substance and that they have deprived themselves of all that is purposeful for a human being on earth; love, kindness, freedoms, contentment and happiness, security, progress, culture and more.

Casting out love

Shakespeare's tragic heroes all cast out love and light before committing their crimes.

Lady Macbeth asks for the darkness to cover the world so that she doesn't see the wound her knife cuts open.

Othello, the Moor, lets vengeance be his driving force, expelling love from his self, welcoming hatred, before murdering his wife, Desdemona.

Othello: Yield up, O love, thy crown and hearted throne / To tyrannous hate!

He does it for vengeance and honour, the same way a brother kills his sister, a father his daughter, in the name of honour in some Arab regions.


What is most tragic is the aftermath of the crime.

As Macbeth contemplates the murder of Duncan, the king, he sees clearly how dangerous a deed it is. He acknowledges that in committing a crime, we only teach others, our children, our students, to do the same. This violence will only come back to plague the teachers.

Macbeth: But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague th'inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips.
- Act I, Scene VII

The Arab world has murdered the love within it.

Until - by some miracle - this love is resurrected, there will be no hope for a region that has chosen to live by the sword and has put its faith in the power of death.

Opinions stated within this article do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.